Note to a friend on why we homeschool…and a bit of encouragement.

Grace is now 17 and in 11th grade. We started homeschooling her in kindergarten. When she was four we sent her to half day pre-K. Christopher would crawl around the house looking for her. We found that her half day absence severely cut any potential family time. So we homeschooled.
We now have 6 kids, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the closeness of our family. That is point one to the socialization criticism. My kids actually get along with each other most of the time because they are on some level genuinely friends and when Grace is 50 and I am likely as not dead, the 8 years difference with her friend and younger brother won’t be much of a divide. What goes along with it is that our kids (ages 17, 14, 12, 8, 3, and 2 mos.) know how to relate as people to other people of varying ages. When Ella (the 12 year old) says I’m going to say hi to my friends at church, it is as likely that she is going to talk to a 60+ year old or 20+ year old as an 12 year old.
True, home school takes time, but I can honestly say that those families I know who have kids as solid and well adjusted as mine are and who send their kids to school spend as much time after school investing in their kids (and usually investing in the kids school). Good parents can be good parents through any education option, but it takes time. And honestly, I think the big difference is that I don’t have to waste much time undoing something someone else has done, I simply get to pour into my kids. (Also, don’t have to undo all the crap of the cruelty that happens when you put 30 kids the same age in one room with limited supervision–did the designers of modern education never read Lord of the Flies?)
The younger ages are the easiest. Read to them and teach them to love reading. If they get the passion for learning and learn to read everything else is a little easier. Debbie does most of this part.
Note of caution, homeschool people can be brutally opinionated on the “right way” to do homeschool. Honestly, I can tell you a couple of things about the wrong way, but there is no one right method. There are people who swear by classical, relaxed, unschool, abeka, bob jones, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, etc., etc. Take the time to go to a convention or two. Check out some good message boards online, and find what works (and find a good homeschool community and get as much curriculum and such used and free because you are likely to change your mind about it).
What do I mean by wrong way? A couple of things.
There are parents who assume that by keeping kids home and picking the right curriculum with the right “worldview” they are protecting their kids from the evil world. As I noted above, I believe in protecting my kids, but that means I control much about the when and how they confront the evil in the world, not whether they run into it. Those parents who think that they can simply buy the right science or history book and then turn the kids loose in the broader culture without guidance will end up with kids who do a good job at knowing a few pat answers contra evolution (usually not very good ones) but incapable of engaging a broader culture from within a solid life of faith.
This is directly tied to the second wrong way…thinking school is about a stack of information that takes place over a certain number of hours of instruction about specific topics so they can pass tests, get into college, and get a job. Education should be about vocation. Vocation is not simply about a job; vocation is by life worship of God in the context of family, friendship, parenting, church, work, study, leisure, etc.
Much of homeschooling takes place listening to or reading good stories together, talking in the car about something a friend did or said or something in a show they watched or book they read, talking about what they learned at church, sitting together at church and answering questions about the sermon afterward, talking about things like modesty or important things like why we cheer for Alabama.
As the kids have gotten older I sometimes listen to the news or a little talk radio while they are in the car and then turn down the volume and let them ask questions about what was said.
Learning chores, learning to cook, these are part of education as well. Homeschool allows for whole life education.
Honestly, everything I’ve said is something of an idealized truth. We have our share of really hard days. We have our share of fights and arguments. We absolutely hate record keeping that is absolutely necessary (because college and jobs aren’t the sum total of the objective…but we would like for them to be able t pursue dreams and get jobs and pay bills).
It takes time…it takes real work. But most things of value do. And, after all, our kids are the most valuable treasure God has entrusted to us.
For what its worth…my two cents (or maybe more like twenty five cents).
And, if you ever want real practical advice you should talk to Debbie. I am working toward a PhD in philosophy, after all, so I tend to be more, well, philosophical. But Debbie is incredible at the practical things.

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